Field trip to TN distilleries

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Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby HighSpirits » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:58 pm

Hi all, I just wanted to share a trip I just got back from, my girlfriend and I went to TN to tour and taste a couple of the local whiskeys around TN.

My favorite (to my surprise) was Chattanooga. The tour was comprehensive and professional (though I was disappointed they only showed their 'r&d room' and not their actual production facility) and every employee I spoke with there whether it was behind the bar or wielding a paddle was passionate about the job and really knew what they were talking about. I was really curious and asked many specific questions that they were able to answer quickly and accurately which made the experience feel so much better. The selection they had for tasting was decent, though I learned that their first two releases were private labeled and not made in-house which made it less special to me, but I tried their in-house single malt (I think it was 008?) and really enjoyed it. This is also probably where I fell in love with my girlfriend, who was able to pick out the chocolate and coffee specialty malts in the mash bill (how'd I get so lucky?). Overall I'd give a 9/10 only because I wanted to see the production house so badly and didn't expect to only see the smaller room. I enjoyed the staff and the environment so much that I (tipsily) told my girlfriend I'd happily quit my job to work for them. For some context, I love my current job...

In between were the average visits, Dickel and Daniels (Daniels had an amazing grounds area).

My least favorite (also to my surprise), and I have to give a disclaimer here because I know the owner is an active contributor on HD, and I respect his attitude and involvement in the community and his passion for experiment which I share, was Corsair in Nashville. I've loved the 'lets try it out!' attitude of the brand and was really excited to visit an experimental distillery, but the staff who were present gave a lot of misinformation on the tour (including saying THREE TIMES that the heads cuts will make you go blind, obviously confusing them with fores and perpetuating this fear-mongering stereotype we all fight so hard to correct). She also said they use 'distillers yeast' and that the higher the ABV of the wash the better the flavor (which we all know to be incorrect). On top of that, I found out that they do all their aging in 15 gal barrels and turn them around within 9 months - when I asked, the response was 'its all about getting the product to market'. I gave it a pass thinking hey if it tastes good then thats smart! But we went to the tasting room and to be honest I disliked every single bottle they opened. Very sharp, lots of heads on the tongue and very tannic with little of that mellow vanillin taste that comes with age. I know most distillers don't make a true heads cut like many of us on HD do (economics plus for feeding the angels) but I think what went wrong was that with no heads cut and limited aging time, the angels didn't have a chance to remove the more volatile compounds leaving it tasting 'young' and sharp. Overall I'd probably give the tour and tasting a 3/10 for lack of knowledge, misinformation and unsavory flavors.

These are just my opinions of course, there were people on the tour who genuinely enjoyed the tastes, and I know a few out home who like the taste of heads... but my gf and I both did not. And I have to say Corsair has a solid branding and marketing strategy with the whole 'punk rock' thing. Whenever the tour guide didn't know the answer to one of my questions the go-to response would be 'we're just weird here, we do things differently'. I appreciate that.... but, I'm a scientist and I like to know why :)

Anyone have experience with either of these brands? Would you agree or disagree? Happy to hear counter thoughts on both! I was shocked with my experience and hope I just hit them on an off-day or something.
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby Yonder » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:50 pm

Thanks for an excellent overview and honest appraisal. Good to see craftsmen having a look at the 'pros' and lettin the rest of us know. Love ta see more like it.
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby fizzix » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:38 pm

Well done. Feel like I went with you as the 3rd wheel.
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby nuncaquite » Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:56 pm

We went to Thunder Road distillery near Gatlinburg TN. Really nice staff and very open with their process.
Drank straight, their products were rough. They are very much in the business of mixers for their liquor.
The mixers are fantastic, and go well with the liquor. It look to me as if they were cooking hot and then trying to
use a thumper to clean up the off flavors. Didnt work so well.
I dont know if they are in the liquor business or just another Gatlinburg attraction. But it is a short, sweet
and free tour. Nice folks.
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby Bushman » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:13 pm

Bummer to hear about Corsair as they are some of the most knowledgeable presenters at the National ADI conference. I am guessing they are new employees that work at serving and not the nitty gritty detail work of running a distillery.
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby Appalachian spirits » Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:59 am

Shame you didnt visit ol smokey in gatlinburg. I can honestly say that the one time i visited it i tried some of the absolute worse likker ive ever had. When asked "what do you think about our corn whiskey?" I told them they were in serious need of someone to show them how to make whiskey and when I tried to talk shop with an employee he was clueless. All he did was pour samples and push product on tourists i suppose. ( despite the fact he was an "assistant distiller"). From a businiess standpoint I guess thats fine and they do sell a lot of it. What i dislike about it is that many who know nothing about "shine" or craft distilled spirits sample their product they all leave thinking they have tried "moonshine" and its just harsh, rough alcohol. The problem with that is they will inadvertently associate ALL home or micro/craft distilled spirits with that one experience.
I understand they have to be profitable by making their first cut at ridiculously high abv and/or run too far into the tails as well but that doesnt help our cause of making it a legitimate hobby. Most home distillers take great pride in producing a smooth flavorful product which is far better than the "moonshine" sold in package srores.
Sorry for the rant but it ticks me going to have a drink now. Cheers
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Re: Field trip to TN distilleries

Postby TDick » Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:01 pm

Visiting distilleries is a bonus for those who have studied the craft, even a little bit.
Last year as a noob I visited McCormick in Missouri, a fairly big operation.
They are an interesting story because they have a lot of products under brands they have purchased and are manufactured & bottled elsewhere.
It took a while to get that out of the guide, but at least it made sense when he couldn't answer any of my questions about their flavored bottles.
But it was nice because it was just my son & I, so a very personal tour.

He couldn't/wouldn't answer a lot of questions about their whiskey distilling which is done there but we were in the distilling room.
They had just switched over to producing a wheat bourbon and he pulled a sample as it was running through the pipes.
Obviously it was in the hearts as it was the smoothest thing I've ever drunk, even when he told us it was 130 proof.

This summer I visited Willies in Montana. Pleasantly surprised that lady behind the tasting bar knew all about the products.
We were even able to discuss a change in the mash bill which she said she was involved in.

I think even when it's bad, it's a good visit.
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